Last November, in arguably the biggest major-fight upset in recent years, Tyson Fury decisioned the second longest reigning heavyweight titlist of all time, Wladimir Klitschko, to improbably ascend to the top of the division.
A man who was once seen as lumbering, out of shape and lacking stamina had proven that he could box on the outside like no 6ft 8″ man before him, and that his “too fast” moniker was more than just self-deprecating humour.
But, other than a great tactical gameplan, what was behind the transformation?
Now we know that Fury, and his cousin Hughie (one of the heavyweight division’s top prospects), tested positive for nandralone, a classic anabolic steroid, in February of 2015, information initially leaked by the Sunday Mirror on June 26th of this year.
The test was carried out by United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD), an organization whose reputation was recently damaged by their inaction in the case of informant tip-offs regarding Dr. Mark Bonar’s illicit activities with top sport stars.
As I will elucidate below, further inaction has marked their handling of this case.
The Furys have taken aggressive action and decided to sue UKAD, claiming that their position is strengthened by at least two subsequent negative tests in the following months, as well as testing clean in whatever testing surrounded the Klitschko fight. They also claim that UKAD informed them that the positive test was likely the result of a contaminated dietary supplement.
“The two boxers strenuously deny taking any performance-enhancing drugs,” said Fury lawyer Lewis Power.
“However, during the last five weeks leaks about these charges have appeared in the press and both boxers have been the targets of continual abusive language on Twitter.”
There are so many unanswered questions here, that I don’t even know where to begin.
If the positive test was in February 2015, why did it take UKAD until June 24, 2016 to “provisionally” suspend the Furys & prevent them from boxing?
Tyson fought twice in that time span, and Hughie 5 or 6 times. How could this have been allowed when UKAD knew they had a positive test on their hands?
What was being done in all that wasted 16 months, and what did any investigation undertaken by UKAD into the Furys’ case reveal?
It comes down to results management, and the expediting of drug test results is more important in fight sports than anywhere else.
UKAD have since lifted their provisional suspension, theoretically allowing the Furys to continue to box, pending a future hearing.
To quote from their statement: “The UK Anti-Doping Rules allow athletes to challenge the imposition of a Provisional Suspension and [we] today lifted the athletes’ suspensions, pending full determination of the charges. These charges will be heard at a hearing before the NADP in due course”.
Under what reasoning was an end to the provisional suspension granted?
Why is a hearing needed to determine if an anti-doping violation has occurred? What is it about this particular case that doesn’t match with the standard ‘positive A & B samples equal a ban’ equation?
Will such a hearing take place before the all-important Klitschko rematch, tentatively scheduled for late October?
If, at this hearing, an anti-doping violation is confirmed to have occurred, will Klitschko’s loss be overturned and the titles stripped from Tyson?
What we do know is that the Team Fury have already lied on at least two occasions surrounding these positives. Firstly, claiming an ankle injury as a reason to delay the Klitschko rematch, announcing as such on the very day the provisional ban came into place. Quite a coincidence.
They also lied on June 26th, releasing statements saying they were “baffled” at the doping rumours in the press, when in fact they knew they had been suspended two days prior.
What a mess.
Between this case, and the test failures of Alexander Povetkin, Erkan Teper, Lucas Browne, Tony Thompson & Luis Ortiz, I have about as much faith in the cleanliness of the heavyweight division as I do the 100m sprint.
And that’s not even getting into a discussion of the suspiciously gargantuan physiques of some of the other top guys in the division.
EDIT 16/9: Team Fury still claim that the ankle injury was legitimate and that they were informed of the provisional suspension less than an hour after they had announced publicly the posponement of the bout.
At this point, as the rematch has been made official for October 29th, it is unclear whether the UKAD hearing on the tests will take place after the bout, or expedited to before it. The latter is quite obviously the only sensible option.
Team Fury further claim that, when first informed about the failed tests, they were informed by UKAD that they had done nothing wrong and were given dietary information on foods which may contain nandralone.
We can only hope the truth of the matter becomes more clear in the aftermath of the hearing.